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A Personal (And Mildly Painful) Story About A Fond Summer Memory

This has been a bittersweet summer, to say the least. This might be the first summer since college where I haven’t been able to go on a real, actual vacation. It’s disappointing and distressing. I badly want to go to the beach, hit up a beach bar, or just visit some friends or relatives out of state. I haven’t been able to do any of that this year, due to the goddamn pandemic.

However, I don’t just want to lament at how this has been a lost summer. I like to think I’ve made the most of it, despite being stuck at home for the most part. There are ways to enjoy summer without going to the beach. They aren’t always as fun or fulfilling, but they still work.

In lieu of bemoaning my lack of vacation travels this summer, I thought I’d share a brief personal story. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it’s not overly awful either. It’s just one of those memories that stands out more than most and for reasons that are sure to become abundantly clear. It involves the beach, sunburn, and how a simple oversight can cause plenty of discomfort.

This particular memory takes place a number of years ago around the 4th of July. That year, I decided to head up to the beach to celebrate the holiday weekend. The weather was perfect. The food was as delicious as it was unhealthy. There were no masks, social distancing, or angry fights that broke out when someone sneezed. Good times, indeed.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to a relaxing trip. On my first full day there, I was set to spend most of the day out on the sand with my dad. Since it was sunny and over 90 degrees out, we both made it a point to go heavy on sunscreen. For me, that’s somewhat challenging. I burn very easily and I’ve had many vacations undermined by nasty sunburns. At this point, though, I’d gotten pretty good at protecting myself.

On this day, I thought I did everything right. I lathered up as much as I could. I even used extra for good measure. I did not want to get burned. I wanted this trip to be memorable for all the right reasons. I thought I succeeded. The fact I smelled like a coconut for hours should’ve been proof of that.

Sadly, I was wrong.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there was one part of my body that I neglected. Trust me, it’s not the part your thinking. It was the top parts of my feet.

This may sound like a trivial oversight. Trust me, it isn’t and I had to learn that the hard way. I didn’t know it at the time, though. I just went about my day of surf, sand, and relaxation. My dad and I had an awesome time. We just lofted about without a care in the world, enjoying the summer sun at the beach. It was pure nirvana.

I only started to realize my oversight shortly after we got back. I realized the top parts of my feet were stinging. I wasn’t sure why until I kicked off my flip-flops. That’s when I saw it. A distinct pattern of red sunburn had formed all over the top of my feet. At the time, I just thought it was a mild inconvenience. I didn’t get burned anywhere else, so I thought I had avoided the worst.

Again, I was wrong.

It turns out that getting sunburned on the top of your feet is one of the worst places to get it. It’s not just that it makes wearing socks and shoes a lot more painful. The simple act of taking a shower, stretching your legs, or sleeping under the covers at night became a test in pain tolerance. At least on your back and arms, you can apply ointment or creams to alleviate the pain. It’s not as easy on your feet.

I won’t say this ruined my trip. I still had fun. It just complicated it. I had to be a lot more careful when it came to putting on socks and wearing flip-flops. I had to take lukewarm showers for a while. I also couldn’t go in any hot tubs. It was a bummer, but I got through it.

Thankfully, the pain only lingered for a few days. However, once my skin started peeling, it made for some interesting challenges with laundry. I’m pretty sure I had to throw away at least three pairs of socks after that trip. It was not a pleasant experience, but it did teach me a valuable lesson.

When it comes to applying sunscreen, do not skip the tops of your feet. You do not want to get burned there.

For those lucky enough to still have access to a beach, I hope you heed this advice. For those stuck in place, like me, try to remember it when this crisis is finally over. Next summer, we’ll have a chance to make up for all the time we’ve lost this year. Just be careful. You don’t want to get burned in the wrong place.

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Recounting The Dumbest Injury I Ever Got

We all like showing off scars. It doesn’t matter how big they are. We still use them as a catalyst to tell stories about ourselves. I don’t always get it. It’s just one of those weird things people do to make them seem tougher and more badass than they really are.

It’s not just a man thing, either. Women do this too. They just tend to be more subtle about it.

I have my share of scars from lingering injuries over the years. Each one of them has a story behind it. Some are more painful than others. There are a few I’d rather not share. Instead, I’m going to share a different kind of story about bodily injuries. Specifically, I’m going to tell the story about the dumbest injury I ever got.

It left no badass scar.

It didn’t make me tougher or stronger.

It was just a stupid fluke of an injury that taught me how hilariously frail the human body can be. More than anything else, I hope this story makes you laugh and appreciate the less foolish injuries we endure.

This particular injury occurred when I was playing little league baseball. For a time, it was a spring tradition. My dad would sign me up for little league and we’d build our weeks around it. For the most part, it was great. I loved baseball. I loved playing. I won’t say I was that good, but I certainly wasn’t that bad, either. I had fun, for the most part.

Like with any sport, you’re bound to get a few injuries here and there. I’d endured a few in that time. It was nothing I couldn’t handle. It was nothing that left a scar, either. I got lucky, compared to some of my teammates.

That changed one fateful day at practice. I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade at the time. I wasn’t doing very well that day. I don’t know why. My game was just off. I wasn’t hustling as much as I usual. I was content to just get through practice and prepare for the game.

Then, during fielding drills, the coach hits a ball my way while I’m playing outfield. Rather than glove it, I reach down to pick up the ball so that I can make a play at third base. In doing so, I badly jam my middle finger right against the ball.

It was the flukiest of fluke plays. I reached in and hit the ball with my finger at just the right angle to do some damage. I felt that damage too because I immediately whined about it. I still tried to shake it off, but by the end of practice, my middle finger was noticeably bruised. Part of it also started swelling. By the next day, my finger looked like it got stung by multiple bees.

It hurt like hell. On top of that, it was the same hand I used to write with. That made doing school work more painful than it already was. However, that wasn’t what made the injury so dumb. What truly made it stand out was that, for nearly a week, I could not bend my middle finger.

That meant that, for reasons beyond my control, it looked like I was giving everyone the finger. It was funny at times, but it hurt so much at the time that I don’t remember laughing much. I didn’t need a splint or anything. I just had to wait for it to heal. That was a long wait and there were plenty of embarrassing moments in between, especially at school.

I’m sure my parents remember some of those moments. I complained to them a lot and the best anyone could offer was a bag of ice. It was a miserable time, to say the least. I almost preferred a more serious injury. That would’ve made for a better story to tell. You just can’t tell a great story about picking up a baseball awkwardly and jamming your finger.

It did eventually heal. I did eventually go back to playing little league. I was just a lot more careful when it came to fielding ground balls. I endured more injuries over that time, but none were quite as dumb as that.

If you’ve got a dumber injury you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. Let’s not pretend every injury is epic. We’re all fallible human beings at the end of the day. We’re going to do stupid things and hurt ourselves in stupid ways. The best we can do is laugh about it and learn from it.

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A (Real) Story About Temptation, Peer Pressure, And Spicy Chicken Wings

I love spicy food. I make no secret of that. I’m the kind of guy who gets weird looks at a restaurant when I put buffalo sauce on potatoes. Some think it’s strange and a little unappetizing. I refuse to apologize for it.

As much as I love spicy food, I have my limits. There is such a thing as too spicy for me. I’ve had chicken wings dipped in sauce that caused me to run to the nearest sink and pour cold water on my head. I learned early on in my diet that there’s a fine line between spicy food and devil spit. I’ve since become quite capable at walking that line whenever I order chicken wings.

I’m glad I did because when it comes to spicy food, you don’t want to learn the hard way how hot it can get. While there are real methods for gauging the spiciness of a food, namely the Scoville Scale, there’s only so much numbers can tell you. For some people, the dangers of using a sauce that measures 1,000,000 Scoville units just doesn’t register.

Those people are destined to learn the hard way how much spice they can handle. As it just so happens, I have a story about one of those people that I’d like to share.

With summer upon us and barbecue foods dominating our dishes, I think the time is right for a quick reminder of what happens when spicy foods go too far. It was also around this time of year that a former co-worker of mine learned just how far it can go and paid the price.

To set the stage, this happened at one of my first jobs out of college. I’d been at this company for about a year or so. I’d made some good connections and quality friends. One of them was a fun-loving guy who I’ll call Derek, out of respect for his privacy. When you see how this story plays out, you’ll appreciate that.

Derek was a lot more extroverted than me. I was still coming out of my social awkwardness shell from high school. This guy, who was also fresh out of college, just loved hanging out and connecting with people. He frequently led other co-workers to nearby restaurants for beers and wings after long days at the office. Sometimes, I attended. Most of the time, I didn’t.

As it just so happens, one of the nearest restaurants to the office I worked at was a well-known buffalo wing place. Like many wing places, they had a broad selection of spicy wings to choose from. One, in particular, was so hot that you had to sign a waiver before ordering it. They called it the Widowmaker. It was said to use the infamous Ghost Peppers in its sauce, but the specifics were a well-kept secret.

I can’t remember too many people who dared to try it. For reasons that are still the stuff of legend, Derek decided to take the plunge one fateful evening after a long day at the office. I can’t get into too many specifics. I’ll just say that there was a considerable amount of beer and peer pressure involved.

To the credit, and chagrin, of my co-workers, they cheered him on. They offered to pay for the entire tab that night if he took up the challenge. It took surprisingly little convincing. Derek wasn’t even that drunk. He’d had only one beer at that point. He still signed the waiver and ordered the Widowmaker.

He was excited.

He was determined.

He claimed he could handle spicy foods better than most.

He would come to regret that boast.

When the Widowmaker wings came out, he was so confident. He looked like he was ready to take on the heavyweight champ in a boxing match. My co-workers were still cheering. He prepared himself mentally. It was a tense moment for everyone involved. He wanted to go down in history as one of the select few who’d finished those wings.

Then, he took his first big bite and swallowed quickly. It turned out to be his last of the evening.

The details after this get a bit fuzzy, but he went from determined to defeated in the blink of an eye. One second, he had the eye of the tiger. The next, it looked like he’d been punched in the jaw, gut, and balls by Mike Tyson on crack. He keeled over, started coughing, and started chugging ice water by the gallon.

Some laughed. Others cringed. A few had to help him to the bathroom so he could wipe the sweat and snot from his face. Needless to say, we all figured out why the restaurant demanded that people sign a waiver.

Derek didn’t come into work the next day. He claimed he needed a sick day. I think his pride was the only thing seriously ill after that experience. He also claimed that he had to stay within 10 feet of a toilet for the day. I don’t doubt him.

When he did come back, he was in good spirits. My co-workers did apologize profusely for goading him into eating the Widowmaker, but he just smiled and accepted. I think in hindsight, it was a humbling experience for him. It’s the kind of experience I think we all need at some point in our lives. Some are just more painful than others. This was one of them.

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Drunks Vs. Stoners: How College Shaped My Opinion On Both

College is a weird and wonderful time. The experience varies for everyone, but it’s remarkable in that it gives teenagers on the cusp of adulthood their first taste of real independence. Most handle it fairly well. Others don’t. We know who those people are. We can identify them in almost every college movie ever made.

My experience was special in so many ways. I often credit college with finally cracking the thick shell of misery, social anxiety, and self-doubt that I’d built up over four years of high school. It was an experience I needed. I’m a better adult because I went to college. I learned many life lessons there, but I’d like to share one particular lesson that stands out more than most.

It has to do with stoners and drunks. Depending on your college experience, if you had one, this should bring back memories.

Specifically, I’d like to highlight why I preferred hanging out with stoners more than drunks. It’s something I confronted early on in my college career. As a freshman, I lived in an all-male dormitory. It was quite rowdy, to say the least, and I have any number of colorful stories that I could share. One in particular stands out and it set the tone for how I’d deal with both groups.

Even for those who didn’t go to college, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with heavy drinkers before. They come in many varieties. Some are happy drunks, like me. When I get drunk, I tend to laugh, stumble, and hug random strangers for no reason. I’m overly affectionate, albeit sloppy. I tend to make a fool of myself, but in a not-so-messy way.

Then, there are the not-so-happy drunks. They’re the kind of people who, when they drink, have a tendency to get more confrontational. They’re not always violent, but they are uninhibited in terms of their willingness to pick fights. I remember being at a bar and seeing someone get pissed off because some girl laughed at his shirt. I could tell from how he was standing that he had a few too many.

While these types of drunks weren’t as common as the happy drunks, they often left their mark and not just with hangovers. Even among happy drunks, they did some damage and not all of it was physical. They would say things and conduct themselves in ways that made for some awkward conversations once they sobered up. One guy in my dorm had a bad reputation for pissing in the elevator every Saturday.

With stoners, the story was different and a bit more consistent. I got to know a few in my sophomore year. They were, by and large, the easiest kind of people to hang out with. Once they got stoned, they weren’t too picky about how they wanted to spend their time. They were happy just watching TV, listening to music, and lofting about without a care in the world.

For someone with sub-par social skills, like me at the time, they were a pleasant surprise. I was able to get along with them a lot easier than heavy drinkers, who instinctively wanted to do something crazy every half-hour. Stoners are just content re-watching Star Wars and bad sitcoms.

That mellow attitude was also gender neutral. There wasn’t much variation between the male and female stoners. The only thing I noticed is that the women just laughed more when they got stoned and were less likely to get paranoid. The women drinkers, however, tended to be a bit more volatile. They rarely got violent, but they were a lot more inclined to yell at people for no apparent reason.

One girl I knew through a roommate once got into a shouting match with her TV because the speakers kept shorting out. I’m pretty sure the TV won.

However, when it comes to incidents that best highlight why I prefer stoners over drunks, one stands out among the rest. It happened during my junior year. It was late at night and I was just returning from a friend’s birthday party. I’m almost at my dorm when I come across four guys who were definitely drunk, as their inability to stand clearly demonstrated.

They weren’t violent or confrontational, for the most part. A couple smelled awful, though. I suspect vomit was the source. They were actually really friendly with me because I was wearing a football jersey. They laughed and joked with me. Then, for reasons I still don’t understand, they decided to start throwing lit matches at each other to make one another dance. They even offered me a chance to throw one.

I politely declined and was on my way. I was laughing for most of them, but I was genuinely worried. It only took one mis-thrown match to make their antics dangerous. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. It’s still a memorable incident in that it made stoners a bit less stressful to hang out with.

To this day, I know plenty of people who drink and smoke pot. They’re all genuinely wonderful people with jobs, families, and heart. I’ll gladly have a drink with any of them. When it comes to just hanging out with no discernible goal in mind, I still prefer stoners. Their so affable and mellow. They’re also less likely to puke in my kitchen sink.

Yes, that happened once.

No, I’d rather not go into detail.

It’s just one of the many insightful experiences I gained in college. It might not be the most groundbreaking, but it did prepare me for the adult world in a strange, yet wonderful way.

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Recounting The Dumbest Health Scare I Ever Had

Everybody makes a fool of themselves at some point in their lives. It’s inevitable. Like traffic, taxes, and boredom at a doctor’s office, it’s an ever-present prospect. You’re going to do something stupid at some point. No matter how much time passes, you’re going to look back and cringe. You’ll feel so stupid at that moment that you’ll wonder how you ever managed put your pants on that day.

Some people have more moments than others. The capable people learn and grow from them. The idiots and narcissists never learn, but make endless excuses. I don’t deny I’ve had a number of those moments in my life. Some are more foolish than others. A few are things I’m not comfortable sharing. I will, however, share one that still makes me cringe and laugh with distressing regularity.

It involves a health scare that I had a while back. Don’t worry. It’s quite possibly the dumbest health scare you’ll ever hear about that doesn’t involve a hang nail or something a kid learned in sex ed. If anyone has anything stupider, I’d love to hear it.

Before I get into detail, I need to note the context of this scare. I’m not making excuses. I’m just highlighting that it didn’t come out of nowhere. This happened shortly after a close relative began undergoing cancer treatments. On top of that, heart disease ran in my family. I had a valid reason for being overly cautious about my health.

That didn’t make what happened any less stupid.

It happened one day when I was trimming my beard. I noticed a strange bump on my lower-right chin. It didn’t feel like anything I’d felt before. I tried to look closer. I couldn’t tell what it was through my facial hair. It didn’t feel like a bruise or an ingrown hair. It just felt like a regular bump.

At first, I shrug it off. Then, I start picking at it, as people tend to do with things they don’t understand. Naturally, it starts growing. At some point, it gets a little sore. I can feel it when I chew. That’s when my mind starts racing.

What if it’s a tumor?

What if it’s some malignant cyst?

What if it’s some crazy condition I don’t even know about?

I’m not going to lie. I did start anxiously browsing WebMD for information, which you should definitely not do. Browsing WebMD in hopes of determining how sick you are is like watching old cop movies to learn how to defuse a bomb. You’re only going to make it worse.

It’s because of that I seriously considered going to my doctor. I even promised myself that, if it still hurt after a week, I would make an appointment. Thankfully, it never came to that because I soon found out what it was in the dumbest way possible.

It was a goddamn pimple.

That’s it. That’s all it was. It was just a pimple that had somehow formed in my beard and got irritated, probably because I kept picking at it. I only confirmed it was a pimple when it randomly popped. Again, I was picking at it. Having had serious acne problems since I was a teenager, I knew what pimples looked like when they popped. This just happened to be a particularly large one that my beard hid.

I wish I could say it was a relief, but I just felt so stupid at the moment that I would’ve preferred something worse. I vividly remember looking at myself in my bathroom mirror with this deadpanned expression, as though I’d just tried to cut a steak with a soup spoon. I would’ve laughed if it weren’t so pathetic.

There’s a time and a place to worry about your health. A global pandemic is bound to put everyone on edge and for wholly valid reasons. However, you don’t do yourself any favors by being stupid. If anything, you’ll only find creative ways to make it worse.

I’ve had plenty of other moments in my life when I’ve felt dumb. Given current events, I thought I’d share one about my health at a time when we’re all a little extra health conscious. No matter the situation, we’re all vulnerable to doing stupid things. We just need to be a lot more careful during a pandemic.

If anyone else has a story about moments when they felt dumb, please share them in the comments. As long as we’re all stuck at home, we might as well use it as an opportunity for extra introspection.

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The Moment I Knew Puberty Began For Me

In life, there are certain moments when you know you’ve reached a certain milestone. Sometimes, it’s obvious. From the first time you drive a car to the first time you kiss someone who isn’t your mother, they stand out in your memory. It’s not always pleasant. Some moments are more awkward than others, but they mark a major change in your life.

Going through puberty is one of those things that generates more awkward moments than most. I challenge anyone to recount their transformation from kid to adult without at least one part being awkward. I’ve shared a few stories from my youth, some being a lot more awkward than others. I can laugh about them now, but they marked critical points in my life that have only become more relevant as I’ve gotten older.

For most of us, there’s no one single point when we know we’ve entered puberty. You don’t just wake up one day and know that you’re a teenager now. All those crazy mental and physical changes don’t happen all at once. If they did, few of us would survive the process with our sanity intact.

That said, there are some moments that, in hindsight, mark a particular point in your life when you realize that this transformation has become. You’ve crossed the point of no return. You’re becoming a teenager now. Eventually, you’ll become an adult. It can be daunting, but it’s a part of life.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a particular moment that still stands out to me after all these years. It’s a moment in which I realized that I wasn’t a kid anymore. Puberty has begun and there’s no going back. At that moment, it was just a strange realization that I discounted. However, over time, it became a turning point.

It happened while I was in the fifth grade. It was late spring. We had just come back from Spring Break. The weather had finally gotten nice enough to enjoy recess without heavy jackets. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was just glad I could stop dressing in layers.

On this particular day, though, it was very humid. Coming back from recess, everyone was a lot sweatier than usual. Being kids, we didn’t care. We were just glad to get outside and away from book reports. I don’t remember much else about what happened that day, but I can vividly recall what happened the moment we returned to class.

As soon as we sat down at our tests and my teacher got to the front of the room, she made an impromptu announcement that will forever echo in my memory.

“You all, stink.”

I swear I’m not paraphrasing. That’s exactly what my teacher told us. She was an credibly blunt, straightforward woman. She didn’t mince words and this was one instance in which they couldn’t be sugarcoated.

She took a good five minutes of class time to give an impromptu lecture on how much we smell. She wasn’t polite about it. She just said in every possible way that we really smell and we need to start using deodorant. Past teachers have told us we smelled before, but never like this. It was the first time in which I became mindful of body odor.

I was really taken aback by this, as were plenty of classmates. Keep in mind, we’re all just 5th graders. We still see ourselves as kids and not teenagers. Some were more mature than others, but we were still kids at heart. I certainly felt that way. After this, however, that changed.

When I left class that day, it started to sink in. I was going through puberty. At that point, I knew what it was. I’d taken a health class. My parents also told me about it, too. I just didn’t think it would happen for another couple years. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw a kid. Now, I took note of some very real changes.

Body odor was just one. At the same time, I started noticing acne and body hair. It was very subtle. It didn’t happen all at once, but after that day, I became much more aware of it. By the time I got to middle school, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was a teenager at that point. That fateful day in the 5th grade was just the first time I realized it.

I’ve come to appreciate that moment more and more over the years. I still had many difficulties, as most kids do when they become teenagers. Some were more manageable than others. I probably could’ve handled it better, in hindsight. However, it’s still remarkable to think that it all began with that one fateful day.

Do you have a day like that? Is there one particular moment in which you realized puberty had begun for you? If so, please share it in the comments.

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Cutting My Own Hair: My Experience (And Mishaps)

These are strange, difficult, and incredibly frustrating times. The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined many big things in our world, from major sporting events to movie releases. Between that and the egregious death toll, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the big effects of this pandemic. However, sometimes it’s the little things can be just as impactful.

Just recently, I experienced one of those little impacts. For the first time in my life, I gave myself a haircut. I want to say I’m proud of it. I wish I could say it turned out just fine. Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy to be that dishonest with the fine people who read this blog.

It’s true, though. I did cut my own hair this past weekend. I’d genuinely hoped I wouldn’t have to, but my timing with respect to haircuts couldn’t have been worse. I typically get my hair cut every two months. It’s nothing fancy. I just get an overall trim that insures my hair looks neat, classy, and well-kept. It’s rarely that much of a hassle.

Then, the mass shut-down came and every barber shop within a 100 mile radius was closed. At that point, I was well past due for a haircut and it showed. My hair started looking less and less kept. I learned back in college that if I don’t cut my hair regularly, I end up looking like an extra in a grunge band from 1993. If I let my beard grow, I’d look like a mountain man with dandruff.

I really resisted the inclination to cut my hair on my own. Finally, after waking up one morning and seeing my hair in the mirror, I decided it was time. I didn’t have much to go on, so I just bought a cheap pair of clippers from Walmart, put a paper towel over my sink, and went through with it.

I wish I could say it was simple. I’d hoped it would be simple. It wasn’t. In fact, it took longer to cut my own hair than it would have if I’d gone to a barber shop. That’s because cheap clippers and messy, oily hair don’t exactly complement one another. I had to keep buzzing over the same areas on my head multiple times because the clippers always seemed to miss something. It got so tedious my arms got tired.

Eventually, I cut my hair to a point where it’s at least somewhat presentable. I wish I could describe it. I’ll just say it’s somewhere between a crew cut and a buzz cut, but with some messy spots in the middle. Just getting it even was way harder than it should’ve been. It’s still not even, but at least it’s manageable.

I won’t say it looks ugly, but it’s not exactly flattering, nor is it professional. If I walked into a job interview with this haircut, I’d probably get docked a few points. It was enough to make me hope I don’t have to cut my hair again. It also gave me much more appreciation for the barbers and stylists of this world.

Seriously, we miss you. My hair misses you. I hope this quarantine ends soon so you can get back to making us all look good.

For those of you in my position who badly need a haircut, do yourself a favor. Either find someone else who can cut it or use videos like this one to make sure you still look presentable.

 

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Weddings, Alcohol, And A Story About Me Dancing (Badly)

I’m good at a lot of things. I take pride in the skills and talents I have. I’m also self-aware enough to know when I’m genuinely bad at something, no matter how hard I try. With that, I’d like to openly admit one of my major shortcomings.

I can’t dance.

I know that’s not the worst shortcoming a man can have, but it’s not just that I’m lacking in talent when it comes to dancing. I’m genuinely bad at it, often to a hilarious degree. Any friend or relative who has been with me to a party will attest to that.

As bad a dancer I am, though, I don’t let that stop me from enjoying a major celebration and making it special. Sometimes, that requires some minor alcohol intake, but that can actually make it even more memorable. I know because I have a personal story that definitively proves that. In the interest of giving everyone something fun and uplifting to read, I’d like to share it.

This story actually took place fairly recently. A close relative of mine was getting married in upstate New York. It made for one of the largest family gatherings we had in years. People I hadn’t seen in a long time had gathered in this beautiful old church that the wedding planners turned into a perfect party venue. It was an amazing setup for a beautiful wedding.

Being a fan of romance, I already have an inherent love of weddings. I’m also a fan of big family gatherings because my family knows how to throw an awesome party. In essence, this wedding had everything necessary to have a good time. I certainly did, as did everyone who attended.

There were so many wonderful moments at this wedding. Granted, most came from the bride and groom, but there were a few others that stood out. I like to think I was one of them and this is where my terrible dancing skills come in.

Now, I need to add a little context here with respect to my dance style. Most of the time, I avoid it because I’d rather not make a fool of myself or anyone nearby. However, this wedding had an ample supply of free beer and beer tends to effect my willingness to make a fool of myself, among other things.

I don’t consider myself a big drinker, but I’m very aware of what I’m like when I get a little tipsy. I’m a very happy, affectionate drunk. I’ll hug random strangers and laugh for no reason. I’ll also start randomly dancing, even when there’s no music. At a wedding where music is constantly playing, I need even less incentive.

I don’t recall having more than two beers before my usual reservations went out the window. After all the romance and festivities from earlier, everyone was in a jovial mood. I certainly shared that mood. The beer was just the catalyst that accelerated the reaction.

As the sun is setting, I make my way to the dance floor. I’m moving and grooving with the grace of a headless chicken, but that doesn’t stop me. I’m having too good a time and I’m too intoxicated to care. I remember more than a few relatives laughing. I’m not sure if they were laughing at my dance skills or if they were drunk too. It was probably a combination of the two.

It all eventually culminated in a moment that I hope the bride and groom remember fondly for years to come. It happened near the end of the reception. The song “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi was playing. For reasons I still don’t understand, my brother and I jump up on an empty table and start dancing to the song.

We dance fairly poorly. We almost fall off a few times, but that doesn’t stop us. Then, people started cheering. That just makes us dance even more.

I’m fairly confident we both made fools of ourselves. I’m just as certain that we didn’t care and neither did anyone else. We had fun. For a brief moment, we were the stars of the post-wedding celebration. My mother still can’t recall that story without laughing and I don’t blame her in the slightest.

It was a brief, but memorable moment from a day that many in my family still cherish. I certainly will. While it didn’t make me a better dancer, it showed that I didn’t have to be in order to make fond memories with the people I love.

During times of crisis, having memories like that are both powerful and therapeutic. If you have some you’d like to share yourself, please do so in the comments.

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Recalling (And Thanking) My Favorite Teacher In High School

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I’ve made no secret of how much I hated high school. I’ve also made no secret of how miserable I was as a teenagers. I know most teenagers are inherently moody. It’s as unavoidable as acne, body hair, and homework. I was just a lot moodier than most teens and for piss poor reasons.

However, my teenage years and high school experience weren’t all purified misery. There were indeed a few notable bright spots. Since this is the time of year when high school students are preparing for their last round of tests or planning for college, I thought it would be a good time to share one of those bright spots.

It’s not a single event, moment, or achievement. It’s a person. Specifically, he was my favorite teacher out of every teacher I had up to that point in school.

Out of respect for my teacher’s privacy, I won’t use his real name. I’ll just call him Mr. Lee. If I were to list all the things that made Mr. Lee such a great teacher, it would take me all week and that’s if I skipped meals. There are some teachers who just read from books and assign homework. There are also teachers who genuinely care and genuinely love to teach. Mr. Lee was the latter.

I had him for two classes. First, I had him for a computer science class. Then, I had him for AP Calculus. In both classes, his skill and passion for teaching shined. That’s not easy to do when you’re teaching something like calculus to a bunch of hormonal teenagers, but the man made it look easy. He even seemed to have fun while doing it.

It probably helped that Mr. Lee was incredibly smart. By that, I don’t just mean he was qualified to teach those subject. Mr. Lee graduated from Harvard with honors. He had a masters degree in computer engineering. He could’ve easily gotten a job at a big tech company and earned six figures by the time he was 30. Instead, he decided to teach immature teenagers how to write computer code and do calculus.

That, alone, speaks to the kind of character this man had. He was the kind of teacher who had an answer for every question and he never needed to check a book, phone, or computer. When you asked him something, he wouldn’t just give you an answer. He’d give you a damn good reason as to why it’s the right answer.

Despite how smart he was, Mr. Lee still carried himself with uncanny humility. He never acted like he was better than everyone else for being so smart. He was actually very approachable. You could talk to the man about anything. I once had a 10 minute conversation with him about how to make the perfect pizza. I still smile whenever I recall him explaining how carefully he spread the cheese on every pie.

Mr. Lee didn’t just demand your respect. He earned it. More importantly, and this is what set him apart, he made you want to earn his respect. Nobody slouched in his class. Nobody disrespected him or tried to nap through a lesson. That was the one class you really couldn’t sleep through because Mr. Lee made every lesson so engaging.

Again, this man taught AP Calculus. That’s not an easy subject to make engaging.

He still found a way. He always found a way to make a concept easy to understand. It’s because of him that I passed every exam, including the notoriously difficult AP Calculus exam that every student dreaded. I don’t think I’ve ever been more confident taking a test that didn’t involve an essay question.

I owe that success to Mr. Lee. Without him, I would’ve been even more miserable in high school. His classes, as difficult as they were, made me feel like I was learning something valuable. I still appreciate that value to this day.

You don’t always know which teacher will impact you the most over the course of your life, but when they do, it’s worth cherishing. I doubt Mr. Lee will ever read this or remember me, but during a less-than-pleasant time in my life, he was a breath of fresh air. For that, I sincerely thank him.

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How I Made My Morning Cup Of Coffee More Awesome (By Accident)

As I write this, I have a fresh cup of coffee right next to my keyboard. If you’re reading this early in the morning, chances are you have some coffee too. We’re in good company. A nice cup of coffee is a great way to start your day. Whether you have a full time job, are an overworked college student, or retired, coffee is one of those magical elixirs that gets us going in the morning.

It’s not just a multi-billion dollar industry. It has real health benefits. Most functioning adults can’t imagine getting through their day without it. I didn’t always drink coffee, but I’ve come to appreciate it as I’ve gotten older. It’s one of the best parts of my morning.

For that very reason, I’d like to share a brief story about how I made this routine, yet enjoyable part of my day more awesome. Moreover, I did it by accident and I hope it inspires others to find new ways of making their morning coffee even better. Consider it a gift that I bought by complete accident.

It happened a while back around Halloween. It was around a time when everyone was stocking up on candy. Some friends of mine had more than done our part. We had a big bowl of candy in the kitchen that everyone picked at for days on end. I was one of them.

One morning, I grabbed a few peanut butter cups while brewing my coffee.  Typically, I drink my coffee black. I never use creamer or sugar. Sometimes, I will pour a little cocoa powder into the mix, usually around holidays or social gatherings. I wasn’t planning to do that on this particular day.

Then, something amazing happened.

After setting my cup of coffee down, I accidentally dropped a peanut butter cup right into it. At first, I felt stupid and clumsy. Then, I looked down at the frothy, chocolate-laden mixture forming in my cup. I soon realized that this might be the greatest accident I’ve ever had.

I took a sip of my coffee with the peanut butter cup now floating within it. A strange new convergence of tasty joy followed. It was like a revelation. It took two wonderful things and combined them into something that was even better. It made my morning and the rest of my day.

Again, this was a complete accident, but one from which something beautiful emerged. If you happen to love coffee and peanut butter cups, I highly recommend you give it a try. Just one or two cups will do. Give if a few minutes to melt and froth. You’ll be glad you did.

If you have another way of making morning coffee even better, I’d love to hear it. Just know that the sweet, potent combination of peanut butter cups and coffee will be hard to top.

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